My arch-nemesis has always been the repeated word. Tremendously difficult for me to detect in my own writing, it lurks quietly in plain view, holding its breath, until, casually triumphant, it humiliates me again.
No matter how many times I commit the conspicuous error of inadvertently repeating a word, I can’t seem to find a method to avoid it. Serenity Software’s Editor for Windows might have the potential to rescue me from myself, but it’s currently incompatible with Microsoft Word 2007. An advertisement for StyleWriter, a more expensive software program, claims it will help me avoid clichés and “break poor writing habits.” But will it make me feel better about needing software to rectify my shortcomings?
I can’t overlook the repeated word in another person’s writing. It makes me cringe. Literary critic at large Pat Holt ranks it foremost of “Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do),” and she’s absolutely right.
So, what’s wrong with me? Why are my errors and infelicities invisible to me? I’d rather be guilty of flagrantly elegant variation than oblivious to my careless redundancies.
The thing is, I’m generally not a sloppy writer; I’m somewhat the opposite. Lucy Van Pelt and I are soul sisters. For our neurotic compulsions we suffer the derision of barbarians who, in their words, “could care less.” It’s not amusing to be exposed as a hypocrite. It can lead to bitterness.
Perhaps a scientific explanation for my lapses would console me. If I keep searching, maybe I’ll find the results of a study demonstrating the inverse relationship between congeniality and perspicuity.